Ever since I was young, I've been fascinated with history. I remember bringing home huge stacks of books home from the library on the subject. They always seemed to have had airplanes in them. Eventually I began to pay particular attention to WWII aviation. I was enthralled with it. So when given the opportunity to see what only existed in my mind as a grainy black and white photo in a smelly old library book, I jumped at the chance.
The Collings Foundation maintains a living history museum of classic aircraft. Most are still flown and this iconic B-17 from WWII is no exception. Each year, the plane makes its way around the country stopping off at community airfields. For a few dollars, you can spend as long as you want with the bird. Touch it, smell it...draw it in. The fore and aft compartments are open and young and old are able to climb inside and experience it from the inside as well.
The B-17 is perhaps one of the most iconic and symbolic aircraft in American history. Over 12,000 were built and flown around the globe, most notably to the English countryside that served as a launch pad for the US's daytime bombing campaign against Nazi Germany during WWII. It was not uncommon in late 1943 and throughout 1944 for 1,000+ bomber raids to be sent across the Channel to bomb various targets across the European continent.
Each aircraft holding 10 men, and no less than 13 .50 Caliber machine guns, the bombers had to defend themselves against the most advanced fighter aircraft Germany had to offer. Unpressurized and with ambient temperatures within the plane often less than -40F, crews defended themselves against the Messerchmitts and Focke Wulf fighters sent to defend Germany. It wasn't until the legendary P-51 Mustang that the bombers had the luxury of fighter support all the way to their targets.
Its hard for me to wrap my brain around the reality that was the air war over Europe.
Each year I make time to go and see one of the last flying examples of an iconic machine that in many ways defined America's involvement in WWII. Its not uncommon for former flight crew to arrive, now in their 80s, to say hello and perhaps goodbye to an old friend, one that saw them through the most trying time in their lives.
In some ways this post dove tails with my previous one - how does photography blend in with your other passions in life? What do you love? What makes you stop and think? Can you capture that in a photo? Can you bring it to life?
Follow me on TWITTER